Monday, October 3, 2011

I am a Marathoner!

I have always wanted to run a marathon. There is just something about endurance sports that really have always amazed me. When I was younger I ran a lot until I kept having recurring issues with my metatarsals and my doctor told me to stop running. As I got older I became less and less in shape and gained a bunch of weight. As the years went on my dream of one day running a marathon was getting  further and further away.

About three years ago I wanted to run the Holyoke St. Pat's 10K race and I went through a long process that I have written about before but was able to complete that race within my goal. Since then I haven't looked back.

Sorry for the digression but I think it really helps explain how I got to be where I am today. Yesterday, in Portland, Maine, I finally realized my dream of becoming a marathoner. My Garmin said I ran 26.4 miles, but I don't think that counts as an Ultra! Here is my race report.

I met up with Danielle who is from Portland on Saturday and she graciously offered to run with me for the first mile and back of the race route. Along the way she offered some interesting tips about the route and really helped me ease my nerves about the race. Those who know me will tell you if I am worried about something I tend to obsess over it, so there is little anyone can do to calm me down.

That night I went back to my friends' home that I was staying at with my wife and two children. I had a few beers from Sebago brewing and then called it a night. My almost 3 year old daughter did not have a good time going to bed so my wife and I finally relented and let her sleep in the same bed we would be sharing. BAD IDEA. I am a very heavy sleeper and she woke me up many times throughout the night.

My alarm went off and I could hear the rain outside, which made it harder to get up, but the big day had finally arrived. I got dressed in the shorts and tank top that I had wanted to run the race in. I checked the weather and then decided the clothes I was wearing might not be warm enough so I changed into another pair of shorts and a short sleeve shirt instead.

My wife drove me to the race start. As usual before any long run I ate a Clif bar and drank some water. I also had a small coffee since I knew I would be waiting a while before the start of the race. When I got to the area where the race I found out the Gym at the University of Southern Maine was open and went there to stretch rather then standing out in the rain. there was an issue with the B tags on the race bibs so everyone had to wear the bibs sideways so that the sensors would be read when you crossed the start, half and finish line.

As it got close to race time I realized that even though it was pouring it wasn't that cold out. By coincidence I did a 19 mile training run the weekend of Hurricane Irene in the pouring rain and thought to myself that that was great training for the marathon I was about to attempt.

In true Maine grit fashion they fired a canon off to start the race and we were off. According to my Garmin it was a little less than a minute before I crossed the finish line. I was really concerned about starting to fast. I have a tendancy to start fast. The adrenaline was getting to me but I did manage to keep the pace somewhat under control. I thought if I had a good day I would pace around 11 minutes per mile. My first few miles were about 9:30 but I figured I felt really comfortable and I was trying to keep it slow so it was ok.

The race course basically goes up the coast and with a loop near the half way mark and then comes back the same way with a few extra turns thrown in. The first mile (and last mile) are along the back bay of Portland and offers a really great view even in the pouring rain. The rain was coming down hard but it didn't bother me, in fact I think it helped keep me cool.

At around the two mile mark I the runners in front of me stopped at an intersection because a bunch of firetrucks and police cars were rushing to an emergency. I reached the intersection and had to wait about 30 seconds or so for the firetrucks to pass. Someone pointed out a comically overweight spectator across the street who standing in a door way shirtless.

Once we were able to get going again the race continued across a bridge that had the most amazing view. I skipped the first few water stations and then I was happy to see a bag piper playing as I ran by.

It was raining so hard out that it was kind of peaceful. I felt great. My breathing wasn't too hard and I didn't feel like my heart was pounding and I was averaging about a 10 minute mile pace. I was able to keep a conversation with many people during the route. At about mile 6, a couple older guys noticed that I had a bib that said I was a first timer and they were very encouraging. It was around mile 6 that the leader for the half marathon was coming back and there was a huge roar of cheers from the runners around me. This helped pump me up.

When I passed the half marathon turn I felt like I just ran through a wall. It hit me that I was really going to try to run a marathon. It was actually quite lonely for a second or two. the route continued by a bunch f nice houses. I noticed I was in a pack of runners that were similarly paced. In talking to one guy it turns out that he was born in raised in the same town that I live in. Small world!

As we wound around the route the occasional car would try to snake by. A car came down a slight hill and hit a huge puddle that completely soaked the gut behind me and he said that the funny thing was it completely soaked him but it didn't make a difference because he was already soaked. It was raining so hard that I could hardly see since I were glasses. I am blind without my glasses so I had no choice but to wear them.

I was keeping pace with a woman who it turns out is from Glastonbury, CT which is not to far from me. I chatted with her for a while to distract myself and at about the 10 mile mark I looked at my Garmin and realized I was still doing a 10 minute mile pace. This kind of shocked me. In all of my long runs I was slower than that. Somehow I was keeping a great pace and still feeling pretty good.

I saw a great sign on the route nailed to a tree that said something like "Pookie: It is ok if you poop yourself!" This made me laugh out loud. I saw several more signs for Pookie and thought, I don't know who that is but they have some great friends.

About mile 12.5 I got another great boost of energy because I saw the only other person I knew running the race, Danielle. I yelled "Go Danielle!" without even thinking. Then a little while after that I reached the turn around and then realized how close behind her I was.

I quickly passed the half way mark at about 2:10 minutes, which is almost 5 minutes faster than the half marathon time I did in April of this year. I was still going strong. Around mile 15 the ankle that had been bothering me for the past couple weeks was starting to act up but everything else was fine.  at mile 17 I had no problem with the big hill on the course, mostly because I overdid it with hill training because I heard there were some hills on the route and as mentioned prior I tend to obsess when i get nervous. It made me feel good that I was able to get up the hill that easy, but this big hill wasn't too big.

I started to slow a bit and the CT woman I was running with started to slowly pull away and I could feel my ankle screaming at me. It was ok because I knew I couldn't keep up that pace any longer. I made it to mile 20 and told a random person next to me that I had never run this far before without stopping for a walking break and that every step I took further would be a new personal best for distance. Within a few minutes of this statement I got a major cramp in my left hamstring. I tried to run through it but I couldn't. I stopped and stretched for about 15 second sand immediately started running again. During that 15 seconds I had real thoughts that I would not be able to finsih and I got really scared which motivated me to start again.

The  next six miles were the hardest miles I have ever run. Once I got going again I told myself, I have run in worse pain than this and I had trained for 18 weeks and wasn't going to let leg cramps stop me. In the next four miles I too probably 5 walking breaks. I lost count of the actual number but I am pretty sure that is correct. I noticed that I was leapfrogging another runner who was doing the same walk/run tat I was and made a joke about it on the way by me.

I ran by someone playing "Don't Stop Believing" on a radio and a bunch of college kids that were cheering everyone on and giving out high fives. I had about two miles left. My legs were cramping all over and both ankles were killing me but with 2 miles left I was determined to finish and I was not going to stop for fear that I would not be able to get started again.

I came down a sligh slope to the back bay road and there was a huge puddle that runner's were being directed around. I stepped in he grass around the puddle and my shoe sank into mud. The rain had let up for a little while but was starting to get steady again. On the back bay road I chatted with a few more people to distract myself from all the cramping in my legs. I kept looking at my Garmin to try to calculate the remaining distance when I thought I had a half mile left someone yelled that I had about 3/4 of a mile left. This nearly took the wind out of my sails.

I had already dug deep and convinced myself to dig deeper. i tried to pick up the pace but the cramping just got worse. I kept pushing forward. Then I saw the 26 mile marker and I somehow started to slowly pick up my pace. I don't know how and the cramps were still there but I picked up the pace. Then the intersection right before the finish. I was giving it all I had. the last 10th of a mile seemed like forever. As I crossed the finish line I felt like I was starting to tear up. It was so much more emotional than I ever thought it would be. I was so overwhelmed by emotion. I refused a space blanket and got my race medal. I grabbed some water and saw my leap frog friend and we high-fived. I heard my wife called my name and I gave her a big sweaty wet hug. It was a good thing she was wearing a rain coat!

Finishing the Maine Marathon was an amazing feeling of accomplishment. I am considering running a half marathon in a few weeks. I am also thinking of pushing myself to do a 100 mile bike race next year. Several people have asked me if I will run another marathon and I have not yet decided. As I write this I am extremely sore and my left ankle is killing me. Biofreeze and Ibuprofen are my best friends right now. I will say that I may try this again and on the ride back home I thought about which marathon I would like to run if I do it again.

(I of course had a couple celebratory beers at the Great Lost Bear after the race but this blog entry is too long already to talk about that!)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It Will Take More Than a Hurricane!

I woke up at 5:30am for what was going to be a 19 mile training run yesterday and I just couldn't get going. Five hours of sleep two nights in a row just took the wind out of my sails. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal I would just go back to sleep for a little bit and head out for my run a little later. I went back to sleep.

When I woke up and finally got out of the house for my run it was about 1:00pm. I knew I couldn't waste any time because Hurricane Irene was headed up the coast. It hadn't started raining yet but it looked like it would any minute. Instead of taking the route I had planned out I decided to run south to the Southwick bike path. The plan was to do 9.5 miles and then just turn around and come back.

About 1 mile in I looked at my Garmin and it said I had a pace of 9:00 per mile. I thought that was amazing since I was feeling really good. and that pace was faster than my usual long run pace. About two miles in I had the same pace and the rain started. It was a light rain but I thought to myself. No big deal. A little rain wouldn't stop me.

At three miles i reached the path that led to the bike path. It starts as a dirt path in Westfield and about 1/2 mile it becomes a really nice paved bike path that goes from Southwick, MA all the way to New Haven, CT.  Eventually the dirt path will be a paved bike path that comes very close to my house in Westfield. The dirt path was in pretty good shape considering how much it had rained recently. As I reached the paved path a steadier rain started to come down and the winds began to pick up. My shoes started to get really wet and heavy but I kept going.

Before long I was approaching the furthest south I had gone on the bike path and the rain was coming down even harder and the wind was ripping. I still ad about two miles until the turn around but I was determined to finish 19 miles. The only way i was turning around was if there was thunder or lightning. I saw several trees down and I wondered if they fell during this storm or were left over from the last storm.

When I got to the 9.5 mile mark I was along a stream that was swelling and I noticed some signs up ahead. I thought to myself that must be the Connecticut border. It was less than a quarter mile away so I decided I still felt pretty good and I was already soaking wet I might as well just turn around at the signs. I quickly made it to the signs and just as I had suspected it was the Connecticut border. I crossed over a bridge into Connecticut and turned around to head back home.

I was getting really thirsty and began to drink my water. I only had one bottle with me. My plan was to refill at the new water fountain they had installed a few weeks earlier along the bike path. I also began to really notice how heavy and wet my running shoes were. they were starting to rub weird on my feet from being so wet and I heard a slosh with every step. I finished my water and my Honey Stinger chews about two miles from the water fountain. My upper back, shoulders and neck were beginning to get really stiff and I took a short walking break. I started again and really was having trouble with my neck. I pushed my self to go at least a mile before another walking break. I really tried to stretch my neck, back and shoulders. I was almost to the water fountain so I kept going.

When I got to the water fountain it was broken. Someone had jammed the button all the way in and the town must have shut off the water so it wouldn't run constantly. I couldn't believe it. this fountain was only about two weeks old. I was really thirsty and really wet and had about 5 miles to go. When I got to the dirrt part of the path it was a total mess. I decided to take a walking break rather than risk slipping in the mud and hurting myself.

When I got to the road I had exactly three miles left and it was still pouring. With driving rain and wind I got a boost from a nice downhill and I finished my run even though I could not pick up the pace too much for the finish.

After a few glasses of water I laid on the floor and then eventually went to take a shower. My skin was so pruney from being wet for over three hours but what was worse was the amount of chaffing that occurred from my clothes being soaking wet for that amount of time. My waste line and inner thighs were all torn up. I did use some Body Glide on my upper inner thighs but it didn't stand up to all the rain.

I also got my first black toenail of this training cycle. I consider this run a a success. I like running in the rain but this was the most insane amount of rain I have ever run in. If I can run 19.3 miles in that storm then it is going to take more than a hurricane to stop me from finishing Maine!

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Am Still Going!

I haven't posted a blog in a while but I feel like I owe it to my loyal followers.

Since my last post I have completed my personal training goal of running round trip to the eight cities and towns that surround my City of Westfield, MA. There was no real reason to do this but I thought it would make training for my first marathon that much more interesting by giving me new routes to run.

It turns out that the most difficult run was not the longest run but the run I saved for last. It didn't help that it was really hot out on the day I ran to Montgomery. Montgomery is a very small town on the edge of the Berkshires that happens to be located at the top of a very large incline.

 I don't know what the actual elevation was but probably in the range of 700-900 feet. This run felt like a bit of a disaster but at least I finished. It turned out to be a good practice run for the hills I decided to punish myself with this last weekend.

Since I am training for my first marathon and I do not know what the course will be like, I decided to work in a lot of hills in my training. This past weekend I went out for an 18 mile run with about 1000 feet of elevation. To do this I ran to Granville Center from my home. The first run on my Round Trip routes was Granville, but this time I was not stopping at the town line but punishing myself with additional mileage.

I left my house around 6:00am. I followed one road which was an old country road that winds up a mountain between several reservoirs and conservation land. I have personally seen black bears crossing this road and I ran past Wildcat Road on a stretch of road that had no houses for a while. It was nice and cool this morning and I could hear creatures moving in the woods. It may have been because of the cooler weather or the fear of large wild animals but I cruised all the way up the mountain road to Granville Center without taking a walking break. In fact I made it most of the way (14.4 miles) back before I took a quick 30 second walking break. I had a hard time getting going again tking two more short walking breaks in the next mile and a half but then I was finally going and finished the last few miles strong. 3 hours 20 minutes for 18.2 miles which happened to be almost the exact time I ran a relatively flat 17 miles just a week before!

I usually carry one water bottle that has a hand strap on it. I was worried I would run out of water for this really long run so on the suggestion of a friend of mine I carried a second bottle and hid it in the woods along the route. I filled this water bottle with ice and topped it off with water. I found a nice shady spot just under 4 miles in and tucked my extra bottle next to a tree stump. This worked out great. I was able to ration my first water bottle through about 13 miles and picked up the second bottle on the way back and it was still somewhat cold. I had just enough water to finish the run. This was a great idea and the only drawbacks were that the water bottle was so cold that my hand became numb for a while and it was awkward carrying two water bottles. I think I will use this technique on all my really long runs from now on!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Oh By The Way, I'm Training for a Marathon

First and foremost I owe my subscribers an apology for not posting an update to this blog in over a month. Now that I have that out of the way I can get to the little bit of news I just dropped on you. I am training to run a marathon. Yes me. If you asked me even six months ago if I would ever run a marathon I would have told you you were crazy.

Secretly, I have wanted to run a marathon since I was in the sixth grade I have just always been intimidated by the distance. The farthest I have ever run was 14.2 miles and I only have one half marathon under my belt.

After all these years what has changed? Thanks to the magic of social media I have found many people that really inspired me. People on Twitter like @operationjack who ran 61 marathons last year, or @thebeerrunner who is on a year long running/drinking streak/bender. There are too many inspiring runners out there to mention everyone but here are a few more: @rungeordierun (who is currently running across the US. Check out his website ), @punkrockrunner , @ultrarunnergirl and @gksarahj5

So to finally get to the story about why I am started marathon training. I decided that after my less than prepared first half marathon I would run another. I went online to find a good one in the fall. I came across the Smuttynose Half. I figured since it would be a two hour drive, I would ask another Twitter friend, @RTdanielle09 , if she had any info on this race. She then jokingly applied peer pressure on me until I relented. I told her later that I really wanted to try to do this and she shared with me how difficult it was but how fulfilling she felt when she completed her first marathon. She also sent me info on an 18 week training plan. I can't thank her enough.

After review of the training plan I decided to undergo the Novice level 2 training based on the average miles I have been running. I set out on my first run this morning and it was a huge success. I averaged a 7:40 pace for 3 miles without any real effort. It was only three miles but it was nice to get off to a good start!

As an added bonus, I recently became friends on Daily Mile with someone named Mordy who lives two towns away from me. This guy is one of the most inspiring people on Daily Mile. Every time I post a run he send s great motivation. If you are not friend s with him and you are on daily mile check him out here.
Someday I hope to meet up with him.

I am highly motivated right now, having just completed the Beer Runner Challenge but that is a story for another blog post.

I will be training for the Maine Marathon in Portland, Maine on October 2, 2011. I happen to have a friend who lives down the street from the Great Lost Bear, so anyone that wants to meet me after the race for a beer, I will be there!

Tomorrow I will be up at 5:30 am to run 5 miles. I want to thank everyone who has inspired my to try to run this marathon and achieve a goal from my childhood.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Really Did It This Time!

So it's official. I am a half marathoner! Is that a real thing? Well I am pretty proud of myself either way.

I trained so much for this half marathon and I almost didn't get to run it. Several months ago when I decided to run my first half marathon I chose one that starts a few blocks from my house. I did not realize when picking this race it was within about a week of my son being born. My son John(Jack) IV was born on March 28, 2011 and my wife was understanding enough to let me run the Westfield Half Marathon six days later.

Over the last several weeks I also had some discomfort in my hip so I have been a regular at the chiropractor's office doing everything I could to stay healthy.

I arrived and found that there were quite a few people running this race. I picked up my tech shirt and after much debate I decided to bring my water bottle with me on the run.

The race starts with about a mile of flat terrain. It was one of the most interesting starts because they only closed one lane of the road but there were so many runners that the cars that were there were completely swallowed up by the crowd. They also started a 5k at the same time that followed the same route for about a mile. As you could imagine this made pacing myself a little more difficult.

I got off to way too fast of a start but was feeling pretty good. I ran by someone who I know is a much faster runner than I am and I got a little nervous. I tried to really control my self. First hill is pretty steep and about a quarter mile long. I had a very good steady pace up it. The road flattens out for a bit before the most difficult hill on the course. This hill goes up a mountain for about a mile and is very steep. I almost mad it to the top without stopping but I only stopped for about 30 seconds and kept going. I still felt pretty good at this point.

The course then extends into Southwick through a bunch of farms. This is a very scenic course with some very fantastic views. Before long I made it to a turn onto Granville Road and a nice downhill. After about a mile the route turns again back towards the starting point. This is a stretch of about 3-4 miles on a country road through farms. There is even a pretty old one lane bridge.

When I approached the half way point I realized how tired I was. I had hardly slept during the last week and it was really catching up with me. Even my eyes were getting tired. Then as if it was an oasis, there were people handing out Gu packs. Now I had never used Gu before but I figured I was desperate and needed some energy quick. Right then I made my first mistake. I took the Gu and rubbed it on. It was so sticky and I had no where to wipe my hands so I was covered in sticky gel for the rest of the race. What I didn't know about Gu was that it makes you incredibly thirsty and I drank all my water around the 8 mile mark.

I was running out of steam quickly but I kept going. I had gone this far I wasn't going to quit now. About the 9 mile mark I was exhausted and stopped to walk for a few seconds. After about 15 seconds this older guy comes up and encouraged me to keep running. This guy was great. He actually paced me for about a mile and a half. I found out he was a member of the Sugarloaf Mountain Running club which is based out of South Deerfield, MA. What a classy move! He was so concerned about helping me he slowed down himself. I really appreciated it. He was very encouraging and when I told him I had to stop when we got to the bridge he tried to convince me not to stop and then only relented when I promised to only walk for 30 seconds and that I would keep running after that. I actually ended up running further than I planed before stopping to walk and I was so impressed with his generosity that I did start running again after just 30 seconds. I did so right before the last hill of the race. I had about 1.5 to 2 miles left and the course flattened out.

The basically dragged my self to the next water station which was about 1 mile from the finish. I stopped and chugged two cups of water and quickly got going again. I felt like I had no energy left. I could see the fence which was .2 miles form the finish line. When I passed through the fence I was so tired but I was finally able to ignore my fatigue and began to pick up the pace and I actually did manage to sprint the last 100 yards and pass two people before crossing the finish line. I got my medal for completing the race and after making it through the shoot I was greeted with a hand shake from the Sugarloaf Mountain Running Club guy. I thanked him for his help and he congratulated my on completing my first half marathon.

I had completed my goal and now I am wondering what to do next. I may attempt a triathlon. Right now I am going to rest. My official time was slower than I thought it would with my training times, but I was just so tired. I finished in 2:14. I met my goal of finishing, and next year I have a time to beat.

P.S. I did a recovery run right before writing this tonight and felt really good. 3 miles in 26:10!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Road Race Report

Yesterday I ran the 36th annual Holyoke St. Patrick's Day 10K Road Race. While this is only a 10K it is one of the most difficult 10k's out there. A lot of people who run the Boston Marathon run this race as a nice little warm up. This was the first race I ran when I started running again just over two years ago. Actually, this race was the reason I started running again.

Since I have been training for my first half marathon, two weeks ago I decided my dry run would be two laps around the race route. When I finished I was completely exhausted. I felt pretty good, really strong on the long steep uphills. In fact I felt fast on the uphills.

The next day my knee felt weird and my ankle was sore. My knee did not hurt, it just felt uncomfortable. I took a day off to rest and then ran a short four mile recovery run and felt that same discomfort in my knee after the first mile. I decided to take the rest of the week off to let my body heal. On Saturday I went running again. I kept it to six miles and I felt good for about half of that run, and then my knee began to feel uncomfortable again.

On Sunday my knee was still bothering me and my back started to hurt. It felt like my hip was really stiff. On Monday I called a chiropractor I know and she fit me in that day. After a brief exam, she adjusted my back and I immediately felt better. When I went out for a run the next night I felt fantastic and ran pretty good. At the very end of 4.5 miles I got an intense cramp in my back.

By now I was worried I was seriously injured and would not only have to drop out of the Holyoke road race but also my first half marathon. I did not run again this week until the race.

Yesterday morning I got up, streched, and grabbed something to eat. I headed out around 9:00am for a race that started at 1:00pm. There was about 6000 people who participate in this 10K race. The beginning of the race is pretty rediculous. It is so crowded. this hear they finally put up pace markers at teh beginning of the race, which is a nice upgrade. EVeryone lines up about a block before the start line. The cannon goes off and the melee begins. I did my first mile in 7:22, which was a little faster than I wanted to go.

I was feeling really good but here comes the hills. I was halfway up the first major hill and I noticed that I really had to pee but I couldn't stop now. I had run this race 2 times before and never finished without stopping at least one time. this year I decided that a personal goal would be that I complete the race without stopping.

I made it up the steepest stretch of the race at a reasonable pace and got a sip of water and I still had to pee. I tried to forget about peeing since the entire route is lined with spectators cheering. The race then has a slight downhill before a long slow hill. The dip is also the 3 mile mark.

I began uphill towards Holyoke Community College. The next half mile is my least favorite part of the race. In the two previous races I had done, I stopped and walked at this part. I kept my eyes down and told myself that it wasn't that steep and I was almost to the top. I then started to feel my ankle hurt. I ignored my ankle and kept going. After that half mile of hell, I began a very long downhill stretch. I began to pick up my pace and just couldn't get going very fats because my shins were cramping. I used the downhill as an opportunity to try to recover. My knee was starting to feel uncomfortable, but then I realized that I was only about a mile and a half from the finish line and still felt I could finish at a better time than last year. I chugged my way up the last hill and the adrenaline was kicking in because I started to feel really good and forgot I had to pee.

Right near the top of the hill I saw someone in front of me stop and I patted him on the back and encouraged him to keep running because we were now only about a half mile from the finish. I blew past him and got to the last turn. I could see the finish lien and with only 2 tenths of a mile left I significantly picked up my pace. This last part of the race is also a slow uphill. I wasn't about to quit now and I began a full out sprint to the finish line. I crossed the finish line into crowd of other runners at 55:30. My net time ended up being 55:09, which was over 1:30 faster than last year.

The runners bottle up after the finish line for water and when I stopped running I noticed my shins were incredibly cramped which is probably why my ankle was sore while I was running. I kept bumping into people becuase of the cramps but I was able to walk it off.

After the race I went to the dam Cafe and enjoyed a couple of Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project's Fluffy White Rabbits, which is a seasonal beer they brew that is fantastic!

I feel like with all my training I should have finished faster, but considering I could barely walking a week before the race and that I set a personal best, I am happy with the race overall. I have a chiropractor appointment tomorrow and an hopefully I will still run the half marathon which is in two weeks!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Have you heard about Untappd and New Beer Thursday?

I didn't write a blog last week so I figured I would write two this week.

I have been using on my phone to track the beer that I am drinking, and I really enjoy this application. It is a web based application that is social media for beer nerds like myself combining aspects of Foursquare with drinking games while keeping you connected to your friends.

Though Untappd I discovered there was a group of people encouraging people to engage in New Beer Thursday. Being a big fan on trying beers that I have never had I decided to quickly embrace this as soon as I found out about it. In two more weeks I will have earned the New Beer Thursday badge.

My only wish for untapped is that I could add all the beers I tried before I discovered untappd. As my followers may or may not know I am a major contributor to the Beer Wall. A couple of my friends and I have been collecting and drinking beer at my friend Tim's house for about 10 years now and we have about 5,000 unique beers on the wall right now.

We have rules. In order for a beer to be on the wall the beer must be drank at the wall's location. A beer cannot already be on the wall. Each beer in unique in that the bottles are all different. There are some beers that have made it on the wall multiple times because they were in different sizes or the bottles were completely redesigned. We also don't have Bud and many other mega brewers on the wall. The Beer Wall has been mentioned or featured in brewing publications such as Yankee Brew News.

If you haven't figured out by now, I really enjoy beer and I tend to be a bit competitive, which may explain why I choose to blog about beer and running.  If I could add my past beer history I would reach legendary status immediately, but I think it is going to be a lot of fun starting from scratch!

Where am I...

So it has been a couple weeks since my last post so I figured I would check in on my training for my first half marathon. I am proud to say for each week over the last seven weeks I have had at least one 10plus mile run. Before the first of the year I had never run 10 miles before.

Due to the severe winter we have had here in the northeast I haven't had a chance to attempt any further runs on my goal of running round trip to all the surrounding towns. I have three of the eight runs left but all of the routes left are on busy roads that don't have sidewalks and due to the excessive snow banks the shoulders are too narrow to risk it. On my last goal run to Agawam, Mass a couple weeks ago I came close to being hit by cars on at  least two occasions for this very reason. I figure that I will put the last three routes on hold until the snow melts.

Last week I figured out that my form was a little off. My right knee was going wild from side to side causing pain in my arch. I set out for what was supposed to be a four mile recovery run and was very deliberate with my form being sure to keep my knee under control. I set out on a slow pace and as the run went on I started to feel better and better. The whole run I was focusing on my form. I felt so good that I decided to go further and ended up with a 6 mile run and finished feeling great. I have since gone on two more runs including an almost 11 mile run while being very conscious of my form and I have felt great so far.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Trouble running outside in the winter?

This time of year can be very difficult to run if you live in an area that gets snow or ice. It really can interfere and discourage running. Around here we have had close to 70 inches of snow. it seems that every route that I have is at least partially covered in ice. Last winter I went to my local running store, Fast Feet, to see what I could get for spikes.

The clerk at the running store suggested I try Stabilicers. They are a durable rubber design that slips over any running shoe and has metal cleats on the bottom to provide traction on the ice. The package actually has a picture of a guy running on what looks like a frozen lake. I immediately thought there is no way that any product could provide that much traction on the ice. The guy on the package was taking long strides and it looked he was not concerned at all about slipping. Since Fast Feet has never let me down on their recommendations I figured I would give them a try. They cost about $35-40 (I don't remember exactly how much I paid for them last year.

Anyway i went for a run with them and they really did make a huge difference. I was mostly running on mixed terrain like sidewalks, roads, ice and some trails. While the Stabilicers added weight to my shoes they really did work with keeping me from sliding. They essentially look like the bottom rubber part of the sole of a running shoe with 9 metal cleats. I couldn't say enough about how good they work.

If you were only running on sidewalks and roads, I would probably suggest not wearing these while running, unless much of those sidewalks and roads are covered in snow. If you only had a little ice to worry about then leave these at home. If there is a snow storm and everything in coated then Stabilicers would be perfect.

What I didn't realize when i bought the Stabilicers was that the cleats are replaceable. It makes sense that they would be, but I just didn't realize it until I wore out the cleats to the point that the rubber started to wear through.

I happened to be on Twitter and I posted a question to my runner friends asking if anyone had tried Yak Tracks or Stabilicers and which ones they liked better. Yak tracks are a different technology that provides traction with coiled wires around rubber. I understand they do work, but the biggest complaint was that they break and I don't believe you can replace the wires.

Anyway, one of the responses I got was from a woman named Heather who worked for the company. Stabilicers are made in Biddeford, Maine (Near Portland) by a company called 32North. The woman who administers their twitter account was shocked to hear I thought I had worn out my Stabilicers and she asked that I post some pictures of them on their Facebook account, because apparently they are not used to having people wear them out. She also told me I could get replacement cleats if not completely worn.

I went done to Fast Feet and got some replacement cleats, and attempted to change them. I was able to replace about half of them. Two cleats were so worn I couldn't get a wrench on them and several were stuck. I think they may have seized in place after sitting unused over the summer.

I let Heather know what trouble I had with replacing the cleats and asked if there was a trick to it. She indicated they should come right off with a wrench. What she didn't know was that I ran on them with only the 9 new spikes and they worked fantastic. Not as good as new but substantially better than sneakers alone.

Anyway, the customer service of this company is so good that as soon as I had a problem they responded immediately even through I hadn't gone to them directly. Then they replaced my Stabilicers that I wore out from overuse without me asking. I am so happy that if i wear out this pair I will go out and purchase another. These are so good for running in snow and ice that for the amount of running I do it is worth $40 a year to not slip.

Now that I know I can replace the cleats I will be more careful to inspect and replace them before wearing through them. I have used my new Stabilicers a bunch already and I inspected them and replaced a few cleats already. These work so good for traction on slippery surfaces that there is no excuse to avoid running outside in the winter.

I speak so highly about Stabilicers that I know two of my runner friends who bought them on my advise. What I plan to do this year when it warms up and I put them away until next year is to remove all the cleats so they will not freeze in place again. I can replace the cleats again next winter. I think that will increase the longevity of this pair of Stabilicers.

There are not too many companies that I know of that have such a wonderful level of customer service. I bought the Stabilicers Sport model. They also have several other models. Check out their website for more information by clicking here . Be sure to let them know how you feel about their product. You can follow them on Twitter @32northSTABIL

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project!

I went to a Meet the Brewer event for a really interesting brewery that is based out of Somerville, Mass. The brewer is from Yorkshire, England and know lives is a suburb of Boston. Here is the interesting part. They call them selves a "gypsy brewery" because they don't actually own a brewery. They contract brew everything at whatever location is available to them. They have very creative minds when it comes to brewing beer. they also have really cool artwork on their products and web page.

The event was held in Springfield at a old place called Smith's billiards. The building Smith's is located in was featured on the show Ghost Hunters. I didn't get the talk to the brewer that night because we got to the tasting a little late. Josh Cohen, proprietor of Moe's Tavern, made the trip out. Moe's is one of the best bars in the country and happens to be located in Lee, Massachusetts.

I first tried the Pretty Things, Our Finest Regards, which was a barleywine style ale. This was one of the most robust and full beers I have had in years. It had a sweetness like you would expect from a barleywine but was not over sweet. It had a nice blend with with the other ingredients. It had a good bite but not too strong. All in all this was a well balanced beer. I don't know much about the alcohol content since it was not listed. I'm sure it was in 8-9% range as many barleywines tend to be. I would drink this everyday if I could.

They also had a beer called Pretty Things, St. Botolph's Town Rustic Dark Ale. This was really good too. It was kind of like a dry brown ale. They use malts from Yorkshire that  are still made by hand. The beer is fermented in the traditional english fashion of open squares and with two strains of yeast which gives it that rustic flavor they talk about.

This brewery is so creative and the brewer is so talented that I would not hesitate to try their beer. Everything I have tried from them has been amazing. Click on this link to check out the webpage Pretty Things Webpage

Pretty things is also on Facebook and you can follow them on twitter at @prettybeer

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

This snow is killing me!

So I just finished shoveling the massive amount of snow that we got in western Massachusetts. I have good neighbors and we help each other out with the shoveling/snowthrowing. My neighbor Tom always hides beers in the snow for much needed beer breaks. Yesterday we shared some Geary's beers. For those that don't know, Geary's is a brewery from Portland, Maine. They are pretty good. The best of the mix pack I bought was the London Porter. It has a slight smokey flavor and the malt is not to sweet, which is a nice blend of flavors. I am not a big fan of overly sweet beers.

What I really wanted to write about today was the 14.2 mile run I completed this past weekend. A few weeks ago I told everyone that I had a goal to run to and from all the surrounding towns from my house. I also mentioned that I had run to Granville but rather then do a round trip i tried to run to the center of town and got a ride back. The road to Granville is about 9 miles from my house and goes mostly up a mountain.

Well this past weekend I decided that I would run the round trip to the Granville town line and back. That had mapped out to about a 10 mile run. When I got to the town line I felt so good, despite the steep incline, that I decided I was going to go a little further. I decided to make my new turnaround the Cobble Mountain reservoir access road. This added about 2.5 miles to the trip.

The run was on a snowy country road, which was fairly quiet with traffic. I only saw a car every couple of minutes. At the town line is a cool old school town line marker and is located at a summit point on the mountain located at an apple orchard.

There are some really amazing views on this route. I was still feeling pretty good when I was on the way back that I decided that I wanted to push myself a bit. So I took a left turn on Northwest Road in Westfield. This is a very windy and hilly road and added about 1.5 to 2 miles to the route. About a quarter mile after the turn and about 9 miles in to the run my feet began to ache. I noticed they were soaking wet which probably explains why they were starting to hurt. I immediately thought that I made a mistake adding on to this run. I am the king of overdoing it.

I stopped and walked a little bit while trying to stretch my feet. I noticed it was starting to get dark and i took a picture of the nice view from where I was. As you can see from the picture on the bottom left the sky was starting to get dark and i still had 5 miles to go and no reflectors.

I started running again and really had to push myself to keep going. I didn't want to be stuck on a dark country road at night without any type of reflector or a sidewalk to run on. After about 11 miles I was finally starting to feel better, and now there were sidewalks to run. The road was much more busy so the sidewalks were a necessity; however, many people had not shoveled their sidewalks so running became a little bit slow and more challenging.

I pushed through and finally after over 2 hours I was a half mile from home. This is about the point that I pick up my pace significantly and come to a near sprint but I had nothing left for energy. I made an unspectacular finish but I was ecstatic because I just finished another leg of my goal and ran further than I have ever run.

I am officially half way done with running to all the surrounding towns. The remaining towns will all be long challenging runs, but with the exception of one on them, none will be remotely as challenging to the incline of this run.

As a relatively new blogger, I wonder if people are enjoying these posts. I would love feedback if I am leaving out the parts of my adventures that people are most interested in. Feel free to email or post a comment to let me know what you think.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I'm not even supposed to be here today!

I started distance running when I was in seventh grade, when I was just 12 years old. At least I thought it was long distance running. I was running 3 mile cross country invitationals, which hardly count as long distance in todays world of ultras. I still have a few of the commemorative blue ribbons that I received for participation in the runs.

I was a pretty active child. I played soccer, loved riding my bike everywhere on and off road and was basically outside and in the woods every chance I got. I don't know what drove me to run a race but I know it was love at first run. Mostly I enjoyed the solitude of distance running. There was a level of camaraderie in running but what I really enjoyed was the time it gave me to clear my mind and to become more aware of my body. I loved the challenge of pushing myself to run a distance that most non runners would be shocked by.

I ran many invitationals and when I was in high school I ran cross country my freshman and sophmore year, getting my varsity letter when I was a freshman. Then my life as a runner came to an end with some soreness in my feet.

One day while out for a run I began to really feel my feet starting to hurt particularly in the front "ball" of my foot. In addition to competing in cross country I was also playing youth soccer, and I thought all the activity was catching up to me. I went home and iced my feet. the next morning my feet were so swollen and sore that I could not even walk. My feet hurt so bad, I thought that I must have broken bones in my feet.

I went to the doctor and after much testing he told me I had what is known as Metatarsalgia. By know means am I a doctor but I will try to explain what this is. It is a somewhat condition of sometimes chronic pain in the metatarsal region (ball) of the foot that involves inflammation and swelling of the metatarsals. It is caused basically by "overdoing it". In some cases rest and ice will resolve the problem. I was fitted with crutches and told to not put too much pressure on my feet for the next few weeks.

I spent the next four weeks on crutches until I finally started to feel better. By now it was winter so I was not looking to try to get back into running right away but as soon as it was remotely warm out I started running again. Within a short amount of time I began to feel the tingle in my foot and was afraid the metatarsals were acting up. I immediately stopped running and went home and iced my foot. The next day I had the extreme pain in my feet. After another trip to the doctor I was on crutches again for a few more weeks.

After three weeks I went to the doctor again and he told me something that nearly destroyed me. he told me I could not run again. I asked "For how long?" and he responded "Forever." Apparently my injury was not a case that ice alone would treat.

How could he do this? How could he take away one of the things I loved most? I realize it was not him that was taking it away, but I was really in shock.

I was determined that I would prove him wrong and run again. After several months of not running I began trying to run being very cautious but after working up to about 2.5 miles in a run my feet started to hurt so I stopped running. this was a vicious pattern that I went through for several years until I finally gave up running. I started mountain biking to fill the void, but it just was not the same.

Finally after years of not running I was talking with a guy who was a rolfer. He told me that rolfing may be able to help my body structure which may help with my feet problem.

Now I need to tell you that I am a HUGE sceptic for new age treatments, like rolfing, but I figured if it meant that I could run again I would give it a shot. I went through the ten sessions, and while at times I was very uncomfortable, it was never really painful.

Now was the real test, to start training. I started slow and after a few weeks I was up to a few miles. I was nervous to run 3 miles because that was when historically I started to have problems. I passed 3 miles without incident and began training for a 10K that I always wanted to run but never had, the Holyoke St. Patrick's day road race. I completed that race in my goal of under one hour (59:45) and by know I was starting to feel really good and started shedding a few pounds, so I kept running.

It has been about two years since I started running again and I have stretched myself out to almost 12 miles without major issues. My feet remind me sometimes that I have to focus on my form and to not over do it. I buy new running shoes more often then I probably need to, but it is totally worth it to me. I am currently training for my first half marathon.

I really enjoy every moment of when I am running, because as Dante says in the movie Clerks, "I'm not even supposed to be here today!"


Monday, January 17, 2011

I don't live near here!

If you happened to read my last blog post I mentioned that It was a personal training goal of mine to run to run from my house in the center of Westfield to all of the surrounding towns.

Westfield is the third largest land mass in the state of Massachusetts and since at the time I started I had never run more than about 9 miles in a run in my entire life, this would prove to be very challenging for me.

I am aspiring to run longer distances and I am starting with a half marathon in April, 2011.I thought this personal goal would be a great way to train for the 1/2.

I started last summer by running to Granville which is one of the more difficult runs. It is almost straight uphill and was not a lot of fun. It was also around 90 degrees that day. I finished with at about 8 miles. To complete my goal I plan on doing this leg again because I did not complete the round trip. I had my wife pick me up. The original plan was to run from the center of Westfield to the Center of Granville, 9.25 miles total, so I will try again when I am a little more prepared.

The next run I did was to Southwick. This is by far the shortest round trip at 7 miles exactly. Then last week I extensively wrote about how I ran further than I had ever run when I ran to Russell, MA. Check out my last post if you want to read more about that run.

So yesterday I completed a 12.2 mile run to Southampton. Now this is the farthest I have ever run.

Here is the route that I ran. It was pretty straight forward. There is a long slow hill about one mile in and then it is mostly a slight uphill until I turn around and then it obviously is a slight downhill and a big hill near then end.

I felt pretty good for the first mile or so. There is still a lot of snow on the ground and too many people do a horrible job of snow removal so footing was really messy in some spots. I had to stop in one spot because someone didn't clear there sidewalk and part of this route is on a very busy road. So to be safe I waited for a break in traffic and then sprinted in the road to the next shoveled sidewalk.

About two miles in I felt pretty tired and I kept plugging along at a really slow pace. My feet started to bother me around three miles in. Now I was by the a small municipal airport/air force base so I distracted myself by watching the planes tacking off and landing. Unfortunately no F-15s were in the air.

As my feet began to throb I thought t myself that I could run through this. Maybe I would get lucky and my feet would be numb. I kept going and tried to flex my feet more which helped.

With all the focus going to my feet I barely noticed that I was almost at the turnaround point. I could see the town line sign and I picked up my pace and ran right by it I kept going until a side street came up and then turned around. When I stopped at the town line to take a picture, it really hit me that I was quite a distance from home. Southampton is a very small quite town with an abundance of farmland. I was standing right by an apple orchard and there was a horse farm with several horses playing in the snow.

I didn't stop very long because I wanted to get home to watch some playoff football. So I crossed the road and headed back. At about the 7 mile mark I stopped again to stretch my calf muscles and feet because they were really tight, but I was able to motivate myself by realizing that most of the run back was downhill. I really began to pick up the pace and even hit the unshoveled section of sidewalk in the busier section at the right time so I didn't have to stop. The rest of the run was pretty uneventful, except that some woman pulling out of a side street was not paying attention and almost ran me over. I was able to yell for her attention and she slammed on the brakes and I just kept going.

When I was within a 1/2 mile of finishing I really began to feel my legs getting tired. I dug down and finished strong. My pace was a little slow but I am proud that I finished. I know there are many more accomplished runner than myself who run this distance as a warm up, but I still feel good for getting out there and trying. I have always aspired to be a distance runner and feel good about what I have accomplished.

This was the forth town I have run to from the 8 towns that surround Westfield. I reached the half way point and I am not slowing down anytime soon!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Half Marathon. Here I Come

I just finished the longest run I think I have ever run. 10.6 miles in 1h31m17s. I felt really good.

When I left my home I had planned to run for about 1 hour. I was trying out some new Under Armour training pants and a new Reebok jacket I just got. Both were very good for a cold New England day. The wind resistant quality really helped keep me warm. What I did not like about the pants was that the waist band dug into my side a bit. I actually did not notice this until I got in the shower and felt the sting.

Let me back up. I have this training goal to run from my home in the Center of Westfield to all of the towns that surround Westfield. Westfield, Mass is the third largest land mass in the state. So far I have run to Southwick and Granville. All of these runs will be at least 7 miles, but most of which will be substantially longer. Today's run was to Russell, MA. Russell is a small town at the foot of the Berkshire mountains.

I felt so good about 3 miles into my run that I decided I was close enough to Russell to run there. I didn't know how far it would be to accomplish this, but I knew it was going to be at least 9 miles. Normally I would never attempt a long run without mapping it out first. Today I decided to be spontaneous and go for a goal.

I had a really good run. My breathing was under control and just leaned back and enjoyed myself. Before I knew it I was at the Welcome to Russell sign. I turned around and headed back home. About one mile from home I had one large hill to tackle and breezed right up it. When I finished me run I felt like I could have kept going. Now that I have been sitting here for a bit my legs are getting tight and I could probably use a stretch and some Biofreeze.

More importantly this run has made me fell a big step closer to obtaining another goal of mine, to complete a 1/2 marathon in April. I was not sure if I could handle a run of that distance but today was a huge mental boost.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My VERY Exciting New Year! (and race report)

I hope that I got your attention with the title of this blog entry, but unfortunately it is hard to convey sarcasm in text.

This year I had two of my favorite past times competing against each other. I wanted to have a few beers to celebrate the New Year but I also wanted to run a 10k race that was practically in my back yard.

I spent this new year's eve hanging out on the couch with my lovely wife and daughter. My daughter is only two years old so she only made it to about 9:30PM. She is such a lightweight.

Since I was the only one drinking this year, I decided to treat myself to a Southern Tier Brewing Company Mix 12 pack and instead of champagne for the midnight toast I bought a 22oz bottle of one of my favorite beers, Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye Ale.

Southern Tier is a pretty decent brewery in Upstate New York near the Pennsylvania border. I like the mix 12 pack quite a bit because of the variety. The IPA is probably the best in the pack, but the Phin & Matt's ale is also pretty good. The pack is rounded out with a pale ale and a wheat beer both which were decent quality beers. Another reason I like Southern Tier is that even their beer that is just ok is much better than a lot of other beers of the same style that is out there.

Bear Republic is one of the best breweries in the US. I am a huge fan of their Racer 5 beer. I am such a sucker for beers made with rye malt. The rye blends so well with the bitterness of the hops and makes a full bodied well rounded beer.

I tried to take it easy since I was going to run a 10 k the following morning so I only had about 8 beers, one of which was 22 oz. Ok so that is not taking too easy. I don't usually drink that much the night before a race, but I had been doing work around the house and you need to drink beer when doing construction projects!

I had a slight hangover on new years morning but I dragged myself to the race anyway. It turns out that the race course was a route that I ran quite regularly. This was somewhat of a strange race because they started a 5k at the same time as the 10k. The races were both out and backs, they just had a turn round for the 5k closer than the turn around for the 10k.

Since the race was on new Years day in New England, most of the runners were serious runners. There were probably 100 people running. It was an unseasonably warm day around 40 degrees out.

I ran into an old high school cross country team mate of mine who now lives in North Carolina. He is in much better shape than I am and actually finished in about 42 minutes, good enough for 5th place overall!

The race is a long slow climb with only about 150 feet of elevation. I started out pretty strong but I had trouble pacing myself because of all the 5k runners I probably started a little too fast. I think my first mile was 7 minutes. It was quite a mental ride to see people coming back when I had barely past the 1 mile mark. but these were the 5k runners. I still felt pretty strong and was catching and passing people at this point. I felt like I had a good stride and was doing a great job controlling my breathing. I passed the 5k turn around and laughed at all the people turning around because i realized how I tricked myself into a faster start. My shins started to cramp a bit around 2 1/2 miles but I pushed through. I got another boost when I was within sight of the three mile mark when the leaders passed me on their way back and I saw my friend Jamie in about 7th place.

It was about this time that other runners were starting to pass me. i could feel myself slowing down and my shins were burning. I wanted to stop running but I new that if I did I would be done for. I somehow managed to keep going. Around 4.5 miles I was passed by an older guy who gave some words of encouragement. He kindly reminded me that after 5 miles it was mostly downhill. After he blew past me, he suddenly stopped and started to walk. I then quickly passed by him am the 5 mile mark. I got another burst of energy and increased my pace with the assistance of the downhill slope.

There was a big gap between me and the next person and by now the older guy I just passed had also started running again and I immediately thought about something I had read recently, that being in the lead was a very vulnerable position. I worried that with how much my legs hurt I wouldn't be able to hold of the older guy right who was now right behind me.

I needed a small victory so I told myself that there was about one mile left and I was not going to have a slow finish. So with the older man's footsteps in my ear I picked up my pace. My legs reminded me that they were still there. I leaned back a bit more to straighten my stride out and then came the biggest downhill of the course. I cruised down the hill and across the last intersection before the finish line. The finish line was about 3/4 of the way around an arch driveway in front of the school where the race started. As soon as I entered the driveway I broke into my sprint. I was waiting to be passed by the guy who was on my heels. I was running out of steam but kept me pace. I peaked over my shoulder and the guy who had been on my heels was not in my sight. When I looked back I saw the clock and I saw 53:15. I reminded myself how I wanted to finish strong and decided I needed to finish before 53;30, so I gave it all I had to achieve my new goal. I cruised across the finish line to a group of people who complemented my strong finish. It felt good that the organizers of the event thought I looked good in my finish. My official time was exactly 53:30.

Overall it was a pretty good race for me. close to a personal record for me and 2 1/2 minutes faster than my last 10K. I wonder if I could have done better if I was properly hydrated and nourished (i.e. no hangover) I guess we will never know.